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15 October 2014
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Memories of an English Childhood in Malta - Chapter 1icon for Recommended story

by maltesecockney

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Rita D. Salmon nee Gauci
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 July 2005

Victor and Rita Gauci, taken in Saqqajja Park, Rabat, Malta 27 July 1942

Chapter One

During the summer of 1938 my Father decided to take us to his family in Malta. He thought we would be safe.

We travelled by ferry to France and stayed overnight in a hotel on the front at the seaside. I remember we had fish in aspic for supper and boiled eggs for breakfst. The eggs came in a glass with sugar!

In the bay there was a flying boat, the first one I had ever seen.

We then went by train over land through France, Switzerland and Italy. There were soldiers waiting on all the platforms. We must have been travelling third class as the seats were slats and very uncomfortable. When we got to a port in Italy we went across to Malta by ferry. It was terrible weather and I was very sick. One of the stewards gave me a drink of Sal-voltili and took my mother and I into a cabin to lie down.

I remember how wonderful it was coming into the harbour, and the blue harbour lights and wind on my face. We rode in a horse and trap to the family home and stayed with them until a suitable flat was found for us all. The family had very little English and Nana and Nanu none at all. Only my father was able to do all the interpreting and we got by with signals.

In 1939 I remember sitting on mums bed with my sister Rosie and my younger brother Victor, not quite knowing why we were frightened, until mum said, "The war has started."

It didn't mean a great deal to me, probably something exciting was about to happen. Little did I realise what was about to be unleashed on our lovely island - not realising that the air defence consisted of three workable planes, called Faith, Hope and Charity.

We had moved to the farming country near St Paul's bay. My father was stationed nearby and was able to come home. We moved again. Mum said she had never moved so many times. In all we moved house thirteen times. At the time we were at Ghain Tuffieha, we had some of the heaviest raids.

Our house had two rooms and cook room and WC. My father had dug a shelter in the rock-side and we played and slept in there. Most of the local farmers lived in natural rock caves. We had long bunks along one wall and we slept head to toe. The lighting was small clay lamps with a wick hanging out of the spout and once we were in there we children never went out.

When the raids were further away we watched the Italian fighters and bombers coming over and counted the planes. They came in fives or sevens. If they got too near we were soon in the shelter.

My brother and I were playing away from home one day and we were caught in a raid, it was overhead so we lay along a field wall. We could see the machine gun bullets from the Italian fighters along the path. I was more afraid of the ants that were in the grass above us.

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